Cornucopia allows a deep dive into the world of Bjork

Bjork’s Cornucopia | Perth Festival | Until March 12 March | ★ ★ ★ ★ 

Perth Festival’s 2023 outing has come to a crescendo with the arrival of acclaimed artist Bjork and her Cornucopia extravaganza.

The show made its debut in New York in 2019 and since then has been performed in Mexico City, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and various cities around Europe. To date the show has only performed 26 times.

The show is largely based around the singer’s 2017 album Utopia which saw her collaborate with Arca. The Perth concert is the first time music from the singer’s recent album Fossora has been included in the show.

The performance takes place in a massive custom created structure that has been built on the Perth foreshore. The massive structure measuring 55 metres by 100 metres is the largest free-span tent in the southern hemisphere. 

The stage is covered by a vast fringe curtain made up many individual stands onto which captivating large animations were projected. As the audience poured into the space, struggling with a lack of signage about which door to enter and how to locate their seats, animalistic sounds filled the space.

With the four shows in Perth this week the only performances panned for Australia tickets quickly sold when they were released last year. The first performance drew everyone from Singer Florence Welch, in town to perform with her band Florence and the Machine, to writer Benjamin Law, and local politicians including Roger Cook.

The show begins with local choir Voices performing several numbers, the choir members dressed in white and wearing a variety of golden masks. They reappeared throughout the show alongside the Icelandic singer. 

The sound of Bjork’s unmistakable voice filled the auditorium as audience members looked to the stage for their first glimpse of the singer. Behind the projections and the layers of curtains various shapes could be seen moving and eventually Bjork appeared in a green dress, gold mask and couture bustier.   

The singer was joined by seven-piece flute ensemble Viibra, harpist Katie Buckley, percussionist Manu Delago and electronic musician Bergur Þórisson. At the singer’s request audience members were asked not to take photos or video of the show, and the singer provided the media with photographs from her own touring photographer. 

A few songs in and Bjork finally made her way down from the stage’s top platform and through the series of curtains allowing the audience to clearly see her for the first time. But unless you were in the front rows Bjork would have been a tiny blip in the distance, the large video projections that filled the stage rarely projected live images of the emerald clad singer.

The singer worked her way through multiple songs, sometimes disappearing into a reverb chamber at the side of the stage. It looked like a small spaceship had touched down, but it was completely on brand for the eccentric singer.

The Gate, Utopia, and Arisen My Senses began the proceedings, before recent singles Ovule and Atopos were featured. The familiar sounds of Isobel from 2005’s Post album was one of the rare inclusions from the singer’s early career. Earlier outings of the show had included early hit Venus as a Boy, but this has been dropped to fit in the singer’s latest singles.

The experience is one that drops you into the realm of Bjork, and soon a trance like feeling falls over you as the singer works through her latest work alongside a few songs scattered from across her career.

Hidden Place from 2001’s Vespertine, Mouth Cradle and Pagan Poetry from 2004’s Medulla were included in the setlist. Throughout the show lights flashed across the audience and at one point strong strobe lights saw many closing the eyes to avoid the painful glare.

After performing Tablula Rasa Bjork proclaimed, “Thanks for tonight” and left the stage. The three words signing off her first words delivered to the audience. After rapturous applause an encore quickly followed preceded by a pre-recorded message from climate emergency activist Greta Thunberg.

After performing Future Forever Bjork repeated her “Thanks for tonight” line and introduced the various musicians on stage before closing off with Notget from 2015’s Vulicura album.

If your love of Bjork stems from her early albums, you might find this performance challenging, but it is a delicious deep dive into her more recent work where music and visuals take priority.

Bjork’s Conrucopia has three more performances in Perth. Just a handful of tickets remain. 

Graeme Watson, photos Satiago Felipe 

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